All Four Stars: Review

All Four Stars: ReviewAll Four Stars by Tara Dairman
Published by Putnam Children’s on July 10, 2014
Genres: contemporary
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Amazon • Indiebound • Barnes & Noble • Goodreads


Meet Gladys Gatsby: New York’s toughest restaurant critic. (Just don’t tell anyone that she’s in sixth grade.)
Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world.
But in order to meet her deadline and keep her dream job, Gladys must cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy and sneak into New York City—all while keeping her identity a secret! Easy as pie, right?

Warning! Do not read this book while hungry! You will just end up grumbly and resentful at all the delicious, delicious food inside! But perhaps not as sad as poor Gladys is after her parents ban her from the kitchen for one measly little accident with a blowtorch. Worst of all, they’re terrible cooks and only order super gross takeout from their town of East Dumpsford. Gladys is a food wizard and her parents are simply food Muggles. What’s a little foodie to do?

A surprising amount, actually! Goodness but this book is charming. The writing is unbelievably cute. It has that faint irreality and sense of wacky adventure that is common in MG and employed here to great effect. You might think this entire scenario to ludicrously unrealistic but trust in this author. Each turn of the story was delightful and had me chuckling along.

And there are so many adorable little moments that just speak to my own foodie soul.

“With every word she spoke, she inched closer to the cheese refrigerator, as if she were a magnet that belonged on its door.”

Okay, you see. This book speaks to me on a spiritual level. That is exactly how I feel about cheese refrigerators!

The descriptions of the food in this book! Hands. Down. Amazing. They leap off of the page (oh wouldn’t that have been a treat if they really did). From the buttery, sugary, peanutty goodness of the Apam Balik to the luscious tang of a blueberry-rhubarb pie to the carotty sweetness of the Gajar ka Halwa. Whether Gladys was cooking or whether she was just the happy recipient, each new food was a such a treat to discover and left me not only drooling but full of wanderlust! I kept bookmarking foods while reading so I could look them up and find out how to eat them later. I was so hoping I’d find recipes at the back but drat! No such luck! :p

The book is also wonderfully diverse and done in such a skillfully organic way. The people in Gladys’ life come from different walks of life and from around the globe and are all fully fleshed and realized characters. One of the things I really enjoyed about this book is that Dairman uses food as a way of traveling, of giving the reader a global culinary tour. Like I said it inspired total wanderlust. Even with the more domestic NYC setting I still felt that bit of magic and wonder.

And, of course, there are many lessons to be learned along the way during this adventure. Gladys is a smart and resourceful girl but she certainly has some help, including from one very supportive and caring teacher I was really quite fond of (I really have a soft spot for awesome teacher characters). The sweet and funny boy next door is a respite, a resource, and a source of wisdom for our gal as well. And maybe, just maybe, the reigning queen bee archenemy isn’t all that bad herself.

Foodies, this one is for you. People who love charming, funny writing that’s full of heart, this one is for you. People who are just fabulous and generally have great taste, this one is for you. Delectable, delicious, whimsical, and full of a magic all of its own. I haven’t read a novel quite this adorable in years.

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